September 15, 2018 09:00 AM EDT Asheville, North Carolina


Pieter Schenk, Nova Totius Americae Tabula

Pieter Schenk, or Petrus Schenk (1660-1711), Nova Totius Americae Tabula, Amsterdam, ca. 1680, after Jan Mathisz (1627-1687), black and white line engraving with period hand color, 23-1/4 x 37-7/8 in. (map, trimmed), 35-1/2 x 40-1/4 in. (sheet), framed

Note: This copy is published on the front and back cover of Margaret B. Pritchard and Henry G. Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America, as well as pp. 82-85, #10.

Around 1655, Jan Mathisz, a relatively obscure Dutch engraver, published a set of four wall maps depicting Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Mathisz derived the geography of North and South America largely from a 1648 world map by Joan Blaeu.1   A copy of the first state of the Mathisz map in the British Library has a decorative title banner and five American town views pasted at the top and bottom, respectively.  Subsequent editions of Mathisz’s map and others copied from it reflect the complex interrelationship between seventeenth-century cartographers and publishers. Mapmakers often purchased old copperplates in order to reissue previously published maps. In other cases, they reengraved earlier maps on new sheets of copper. Mathisz’s copperplates appear to have been acquired about 1700 by map publisher Cornelis Danckerts III because one set bearing his imprint is known.


Philip Burden noted that Nicholas Visscher’s 1682 sales catalog listed a set of maps of the four continents, thus raising the possibility that, although no copies bearing his imprint are known, the plates for the Mathisz map may have come into the hands of the Visscher family at some point.2  Regardless of whether Visscher was selling copies of the Mathisz map, he published a reduced version, Novissima et Accuratissima Totius Americæ Descriptio, in 1670.3


Petrus Schenk engraved his own version of the Mathisz map about 1680, copying the geography directly, but creating his own ornamentation, most notably the two scenes in the lowerleft and right corners.4 A decorative banner similar to that attached to the British Library copy of the Mathisz map bearing the title Nova Totius Americæ Tabula and a reengraved series of five views were pasted to the top and bottom of Colonial Williamsburg’s Schenk map. Although the views on the Colonial Williamsburg map were assembled in a different order than on the Mathisz, in each case, the central view is of New Amsterdam, the crown jewel of the Dutch American empire. On Schenk’s map, this view has been renamed “Nieu Jork.”5


Similarities between the period coloring of the map and the attached elements indicate they were done at the same time. In all likelihood, at least twenty-five years passed between the publication of the first issue of the Mathisz map and the Schenk copy. How these two maps came to have similar decorative features attached to them remains a mystery.


The center view illustrating New York is a very close copy of the one previously published by Visscher. That this view was pasted to the only two known copies of Schenk’s map is interesting in light of the possibility that the Visscher family may have been in possession of the Mathisz plates.6


The depiction of California as an island is a misconception seen on many seventeenth-century maps. It is thought that a Carmelite Friar, Father Antonio Ascension, drew a map based on two Spanish navigators’ reports of a large opening in the West Coast and a vast inland sea. Ascension’s map was dispatched to Spain, but the ship carrying it was captured by the Dutch and taken to Amsterdam. Curiously, among the most influential supporters of the theory of California as an island was the same Visscher family of mapmakers that may have once owned the Mathisz plates.


Scenes illustrating figures and native flora and fauna often ornamented seventeenth-century Dutch maps. Schenk employed Philip Tideman, a German-born painter working in Amsterdam, to design the decoration for Nova Totius Americæ Tabula. Tideman was noted for painting historical and allegorical pictures, primarily for public buildings. In the lower left corner is a scene of Native Americans laden with goods while slaves labor in the background. The Rape of Persephone illustrated in the lower right was a subject suitable for a map depicting continents above and below the equator where the seasons are reversed. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. One day while Persephone was gathering flowers, the earth opened up and Pluto emerged in his black chariot, captured her, and took her to the Underworld. Demeter began searching for Persephone rather than tending to her duties, so the crops died. Zeus intervened and ordered Pluto to release Persephone provided she had consumed nothing in the Underworld. Because she had eaten some pomegranate seeds, Persephone was forced to spend the winter months in the Underworld and the summer on earth. Demeter was happy to have Persephone with her for half the year and made the crops grow again.


1. Only three copies of the first issue of the Mathisz map of North and South America are known. The scarcity of copies of the first and subsequent reissues makes it difficult to trace the history of publication.

2. Burden, Mapping of North America, p. 405.

3. This map is illustrated in Tooley, “California as an Island: A Geographical misconception illustrated by 100 examples from 1625 to 1770,” in Tooley, comp., Mapping of America, plate 41.

4. Ca. 1680 was assigned because Schenk formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Gerard Valck. After that date, the names of both partners were generally included in the imprint.

5. One other copy of this map with the attached views and title is in a private collection.

6. Tooley, “California as an Island,” p. 110.

Provenance:Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Proceeds to Benefit the Acquisitions Fund


areas of retouch and restoration, discoloration consistent with age 

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

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